by Lucas de Lima on Aug.23, 2012
Antony Hegarty, the operatic earth mother of our times, recently gave a speech during a concert that envisioned feminism as an ecological inevitability, an ungovernable, all-governing force, an oil-slick pussy riot, a bloodline whose trickle defies all bounds. Some excerpts:
It’s a very indigenous idea that the Earth is a female, that the Earth menstruates, that the water of the world is the blood of a woman’s body and that’s what we crawled out of just in the same way that we crawled out of our mother’s wombs. It’s the most basic idea; any child could come up with it and it’s so obvious….
I’ve heard two rumors about the Dalai Lama. One is that he said he wasn’t going to be reincarnating because the world was going to be too dangerous and that’s probably just a rumor. But then I heard a far more interesting new rumor, which is that the Dalai Lama said the next time he incarnates it will be as a girl, which will be the first in the history of Buddhism. But I think that that is the most revolutionary thing he could possibly do and the most helpful spiritual gesture that he could make. And I’m very interested in the feminization of the deities. I’m very interested in Jesus as a girl. I’m extremely interested in Allah as a woman….
Allah as a woman is a critical threshold and Buddha as a mother is another one because I truly believe that unless we move into feminine systems of governance we don’t have a chance on this planet. And there’s no one else that can lead the masses to do that except for, like, the major religious institutions. And I’m someone who’s looking for a reason to hope, and for me hope looks like feminine systems of governance being instated in, like, the major religious institutions and throughout corporate and civil life. And it might sound far-fetched, but if you look at your own beliefs, just imagine how quickly you accepted the idea that the ocean is rising and the ecology of our world is collapsing. We can actually imagine that more readily than we can imagine a switch from patriarchal to matriarchal systems of governance — a subtle shift in the way our society works.
Antony titles this speech “Future Feminism” on his album. His is a witchy ethics, rooted in the rippling of water and our synchronicity with the moon, not “spiritual matter” or “Sky Gods,” which are just as much synonymous with orthodox religion as with money, banks, corporations, and other flimsy and abstract yet seemingly untouchable models of civilization. “What’s great about being transgendered is that you’re born with a natural religion,” Antony affirms. I am transfixed by Antony, just as I am by his pal Marina Abramovic, because the best of each artist destroys swaths of distracting stupidity (e.g. Todd Akin and the rest of the GOP, Chick-fil-A but also the HRC) and reboots our senses back onto a path of spectacularly primal, godly vistas, where we marry elements and ancestors instead of sweethearts. In their world, gender becomes a fast-track to carnal love and alarm, a commandment to “cut the world,” as Antony’s new song invokes, and Abramovic’s performative self-mutilation has long longed for.
“To decide,” wrote Michel Serres, “is to cut.” In Abramovic’s “God Punishing,” she strikes back at god, inviting locals on the Thai coast to whip the waves 345 times in retribution for the 2004 tsunami.
I think of Aase Berg as another artist whose bladed works slice open and streamline a faith-based consciousness. It makes sense to me that the dense prose poems of With Deer came before Transfer Fat. By shedding density while amping up intensity, Transfer Fat feels like clipped whispers in a fire-lit cave (Feng Chen once whispered Berg’s poems to my students). What better prayer for a parent to breathe into their tot’s ears while tucking them in than:
let fat wait
let time go
let time rock calmly in hare
let fat build core in hare
in the hare Cosmos
time is shell
Through neologisms as queer as “fathermilk” and ferocious as “cuntstiff looptrack fatflood,” Berg’s incantations unleash a will to transformation. There is no life, no death, no future or past, without drawing from the primeval state in which language emerged, and without mangling the political grammar that straightjackets it. Because it extends this state of flux to the act of translation, I think Johannes’ ambient rendering of the text into English is perfectly in keeping with Berg’s faith in linguistic intensity. It’s a dynamic of mutability rather than meaning that drives Berg’s poems, making her fat transferable. Rather than a ‘faithful translation,’ as Johannes points out, we get a continuous recasting of faith through the conduits of bodies: Berg, Johannes, and their readers, yes, but also the hares, whales, and rabies the poems invite. This commingling closes the time-space between human and inhuman matter, creating elastic constellations out of gender, species, and other markers of the body:
The rubber tumbler glides
along the uneons of time
The eons of echo time
One rams into walls
of one’s opposite
As in Hegarty and Abramovic, the gesture of the cut is foundational to Berg’s poetics, as “the direction surface / is cuttingly blank.” Berg’s feminist act, her transfiguration of maternity into the feedback loop of fat, is a cut of difference paradoxically made to foreground the fact that our origins are not so different. Everything on Earth is the “fetusfat’s All,” and violence must be inflicted so that this fact matters (and becomes matter). Insofar as Berg echoes Hegarty’s call for matriarchy with all the queerness that such a call demands, her poetry unshackles motherhood from the strictures of identity and throws it to the wilds of contagion. The human and all his claims to hierarchy, individuality, and austerity thus dissolve in the land’s ancient fat, its blubbering and babbling. What is this “breast-gristle” if not our own? What kind of earth mother must we now each follow, if not become?
If novelty in our age is still a byproduct of progress, then maybe little is novel about such a feminist prayer. We are only renewing our vows with an ever-expiring ecology. To “vibribrate” through this future feminism may actually be tantamount to stuttering back into the egg a cock breaks when it crows. I, for one, have a vision of this cock trembling before a kind of castrating dawn: it’s his milk in the blood mixed with yolk that he fears and contains.